The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan launch Mouth Cancer Action Charter to Parliament

The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan launched their Mouth Cancer Action Charter at a face-to-face event in the Houses of Parliament earlier this week. Members of Parliament, ministers and dental and health professionals were invited along to sign the Charter and demonstrate their support for its policy recommendations.

The Mouth Cancer Charter has been created to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month – the UK’s biggest charity campaign for mouth cancer awareness. The campaign calls for more people to be mouthaware by being able to recognise and act on any unusual changes to the mouth.

The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are concerned that mouth cancer referrals have significantly fallen over the pandemic period, while awareness of the major signs and symptoms of mouth cancer is very low. According to results from a recent MP survey, only 27% of MPs felt they were as well informed of the causes and symptoms of mouth cancer as they are of other leading cancers.[1]

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth said: “We’ve worked together with the Oral Health Foundation for over 20 years on the Mouth Cancer Action Campaign, but we wanted to go one step further this year by spreading the mouth cancer awareness messages further and wider into the corridors of Westminster.”

“Mouth cancer referrals will have been significantly reduced due to the Covid pandemic restrictions last year and delays have been incurred by the dental backlog and access to NHS dentistry remaining difficult in certain areas. We urge the Government to consider these mouth cancer policy interventions. The longer the delay to implement these changes, the more lives could be lost to mouth cancer as possible cases go undetected. Top of the policy recommendation list is that we are calling on the Government to fund a public health awareness campaign on the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.”

Recent research conducted by the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan shows that four-in-five UK adults have never been exposed to public health messaging around mouth cancer, leading to poor awareness of the early warning signs and risk factors[2].

Dr Rutland said: “If people can easily recognise the risk factors and what to look out for in terms of changes in their mouth, health professionals will also be able to catch cases earlier. Late diagnosis of mouth cancer is becoming all too common and this will have a severe effect on a person’s quality of life and their chances of survival.”

The Charter proposes that GP’s, pharmacists, care home and nursing staff should all be given enhanced training or further information about how to look out for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer to further improve early detection. Spotting signs early can increase someone’s chances of survival from 50% to 90%.

Sir Paul Beresford and Dr Nigel Carter OBE

Commenting on the policy recommendations proposed in the Charter, Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation said: “If these mouth cancer policy changes were put into action we could drive down case numbers and save the government a significant amount of money in oral cancer treatment costs.  In England, the cost of head and neck cancer treatment was £309m in 2010-11[3] and since then case numbers of mouth cancer have grown by around 67%.” 

The Mouth Cancer Action Charter highlights the following policy areas for change:

  1. Conduct a government funded public health awareness campaign of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.
  2. Improve access to routine dentistry to detect mouth cancers earlier and save lives.
  3. Enable enhanced training of GPs to identify suspected mouth cancers and change the NICE guidelines so that more cases can be referred to secondary care.
  4. Improve training programmes for healthcare staff to look for signs of mouth cancer.
  5. Introduce free dental check-ups and treatment for mouth cancer patients to end the unfair financial burden placed on them.
  6. Support the development of better technology to diagnose mouth cancers.

One of the key points in the mouth cancer charter is about the development of better technology to diagnose mouth cancers. During the pandemic, it has become more evident that innovation, data and technology are helping to make dentistry safer, faster and more accessible.

The use of technology in diagnostics is also becoming more important. Denplan and the Oral Health Foundation are proposing that with the support from NHSX a mobile app could be developed that would enable patients to share photographs of their mouth lesions which would then be reviewed within a short space of time by a consultant.

In addition to politicians and ministers, the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are also asking dental professionals and other healthcare professionals to show their support and sign the Charter at www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-action-charter. More information on mouth cancer can be found on the website and by following the campaign on social media via #MouthCancerAction.

References:

[1] YouGov completed online interviews with a representative sample of 103 MPs.   The survey was completed between 6th and 28th September 2021;

[2] The research was carried out online by Research Without Barriers – RWB. All surveys were conducted between 6th October 2021 and 8th October 2021. The sample comprised 2,008 UK adults

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28734109/

Denplan pledges to invest in providing dental services to those most in need

Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, is delighted to announce a new partnership with Dentaid, to improve access to vital oral healthcare provision to those most in need around the UK.

 

The UK’s leading dental payment plan provider will be working closely with Dentaid, a charity that works to improve oral health in the UK and overseas for the next 12 months and our investment means the charity can create and safeguard up to 25 mobile ‘Denplan Outreach Clinics’ for homeless and vulnerable people across the UK.

These clinics are vital at a time when government reports are showing an increasing inequality in access to healthcare.

 

Denplan will also be supporting an extension to Dentaid’s BrightBites, an oral health education scheme which teaches children about the importance of looking after their teeth. With Government statistics showing an estimated cost of £33 million for hospital admissions in 0–19-year-olds for tooth extractions due to tooth decay this is an increasingly important area of focus.* Denplan’s support will specifically enable Dentaid to develop education materials for pre-school aged children and their parents/carers.

 

Catherine Rutland, Denplan’s Clinical Director comments: “I know the huge difference Dentaid’s mobile clinics makes to the clients they treat; people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to see a dentist. I’m so pleased that through our support the charity can provide an additional 25 clinics that will specifically target the most vulnerable in our society enabling them to access the oral healthcare they need.

“I’m also pleased that Denplan is supporting the BrightBites early years oral health programme because we know that ensuring a child has the best start to their dental care can have a significant influence on their oral health for life. As dentists, we’re also very aware of the high levels of dental issues in children and know we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of teaching children about good oral health at the earliest opportunity.”

Andy Evans Dentaid CEO adds: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Denplan.  This will enable us to provide outreach dental care for more of the most vulnerable people in our society. Thanks to Denplan we will be able to send our mobile dental units to new locations where volunteers will provide dental treatments for people experiencing homelessness. We’ll also be able to help other hard-to-reach groups who are living with the misery of untreated toothache. Since the pandemic, demand for our work has soared and our help is needed more than ever.

“Furthermore, we’ll be able to work with Denplan to develop our BrightBites oral health education programme for early years. Sadly, a quarter of children have dental decay by the time they start school, with children in areas of higher deprivation more likely to be suffering. Through our contacts and charity partners we plan to teach children and their families about the importance of dental health to improve their chances of having a healthy smile.”

All Dentaid’s clinics are staffed by dental industry volunteers and they are always on the lookout for more people to support their work of providing emergency dental treatment for those in need. For more information, or to volunteer, contact ukclinics@dentaid.org.

 

Denplan is continuing to ensure that every day, every decision we make, and every action – big or small – not only helps improve the health of our company, customers and communities, but also the health of everyone and everything we hold dear. For more information about our community impact, visit parent company Simplyhealth’s website: www.simplyhealth.co.uk/about-us/community-impact

 *source Hospital tooth extractions of 0 to 19 year olds – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Denplan announces launch of ‘Next Generation Dental Group’

Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, has invited a group of nine young Denplan member dentists (under the age of 35) to join a new Next Gen Dental Group. Over the course of the 12-month programme, Denplan will offer group members mentoring, professional leadership development and the chance to establish a like-minded network that can be called upon for advice and support. The aim is to help foster a new generation of leaders in the dental sector and provide opportunities they might not otherwise have access to in their normal clinical setting. 

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan and chair of the Next Gen Dental Group, says: “Denplan is committed to raising the profile of private dentists in policy-making, by advocating on their behalf and improving the understanding of dentistry more generally within government. Our new Next Gen Dental Group aims to provide the younger age group with an opportunity to start shaping dentistry policy agenda from the beginning of their careers.

“We’re working collaboratively with the group to refine our one-year programme, so that the key focus areas really meet their needs. During our initial meeting, we had invaluable discussions informed by the groups’ experiences around mentoring, career support and regulation of private practices. Together, we’re looking at the best ways to support young and upcoming dentists, as well as how we can continue to effectively highlight ongoing issues affecting the profession to government.”

Denplan is delighted to welcome the following members to the Next Gen Dental Group; Richard Alexander at Greenlaw Dental Care, Shamir Chandarana at Dental House, Gareth Crowther at Brynhyfryd Dental, Andrew Farr at Broad Street Dental, Veeren Gupta at Ferndale House Dental, Niki Keyhani at Horsham Dental Studio, Alice Martin at Lowen Dental Spa, Harbinder Singh-Dewgun at Lion House Dental Practice and Buckingham Dental, and Catherine Turner at The Walton Practice.

Charlie Unwin

The second meeting, held at the end of August, will focus on mentoring and Denplan will kickstart the programme with a formal session to understand individuals’ mentoring requirements. Guest speaker and former Team GB performance psychologist Charlie Unwin will also be joining to help members reflect on their experiences of being practice/small business owners. Previously, Charlie has applied his past experience and learning about the principles of human performance and psychology in working with global organisations, Olympic athletes, Premier League football teams and businesses to help them achieve their own performance aspirations.

The Next Gen Dental Group initiative aims to continue pushing private dentistry to the front of the debate about the future of healthcare, ensuring the voices of those working within the private dental sector – in particular, future young leaders – are heard. Its formation follows the publication of Denplan’s white paper on the future of dentistry, released in Spring this year. This extensive report covers a wide range of issues that Denplan continues to highlight and put on the agenda of government, policy makers and the wider dental profession.

 

Simplyhealth Survey suggests confusion around healthcare and dental plans as up to 84% overestimate monthly cost

The subscription economy is booming, with almost four out of five (79%) adults in the UK signed up to at least one, spending on average £475 a year. Yet, while 96% of people say they are now focused on their holistic health, only 13% reported paying monthly for health benefits that could help them with everyday wellness, according to a recent survey conducted by Simplyhealth.

As one of the UK’s leading health solutions companies, Simplyhealth carried out the survey of 2000 people, aged between 16 and 82, to investigate how Covid-19 has impacted views on mental and physical health, subscriptions and spending habits.1 Findings suggest that the popularity of paying monthly for services and products is here to stay, with 1 in 5 (22%) admitting to signing up to even more during the pandemic. This upward trend was particularly prevalent in younger age groups, with almost a third (31%) of 16-44-year-olds increasing their subscription services as opposed to just 13% of those over 55.

Most popular – and where most money is spent – is entertainment; half (50%) of respondents reported paying monthly for video streaming services, followed by music and audio streaming (27%). Furthermore, 18% of people reported having food, drink and beauty subscriptions. Yet, only 13% of people reported paying monthly for life insurance, or a health or dental plan that could help them with everyday wellness, and just 12% said that they had subscriptions for fitness or wellbeing apps.

A focus on health

This is surprising given that 96% of survey respondents stated they remain focused on their holistic health, with almost half saying that the pandemic has made them care more about both their mental and physical wellbeing (44% and 45%, respectively). Again, this trend was noticeably higher in younger age groups – 53% of 16-24-year-olds said they now care more about their mental health, dropping to 37% in the 55+ category. However, the survey also showed that while 63% believed that they were aware or very aware of the benefits of health and dental plans, 45% overestimated how much dental plans can cost and 84% overestimated how much health plans can cost – some by more than 10 times as much.

Commenting on these findings, Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth, says: “Covid-19 has made us reassess many things we previously took for granted, drastically reshaping the agenda around health and wellness. It’s encouraging to see that so many people, particularly those in younger age groups, are remaining focused on their overall health, but it’s surprising that relatively few pay monthly premiums for plans that can help support and maintain this. In fact, in our experience, healthcare plans can really benefit younger, working adults with busy lives who value the convenience and cost certainty they provide.

“Our survey suggests that there are misunderstandings around healthcare plans, in terms of both costs and benefits. Rather than cover for medical conditions, health plans are designed to provide fast, accessible support for everyday health concerns. Looking after your wellbeing isn’t always easy at the moment, so it’s really important that people are fully aware of the different options open to them and their families, and the benefits these can provide.”

For more information on the results from the survey, including more information on health and dental plans, visit Simplyhealth’s blog: www.simplyhealth.co.uk/subscriptions-and-your-health

Denplan launches a new series of Expert Network webinars

Denplan has launched its Denplan Expert Network  webinar series which will include a total of 8 evening sessions from 7-8pm up until the end of September. All webinars will also be made available to view on demand. The webinars are an opportunity for all dentists to learn from and collaborate with four different specialist advisors – all with extensive knowledge and experience of the dental sector. 

The webinar series targets the core business areas that Denplan dentists told us would have the widest level of training appeal to them.  The four most popular non-clinical training areas revealed by the Denplan survey were; legal aspects of being in practice (56%), managing dentists’ own pensions (51%), HR and employee wellbeing advice (48%) and Accounts and Tax (46%)[1].

The webinars will cover the following topics:

  • How to plan effectively for retirement (Chase de Vere)
  • Dental market evaluation summer 2021 (Lily Head)
  • An insight into the different ways of contracting with individuals (Knights plc)
  • Tax implications and employee benefits (Lovewell Blake)
  • How to maximise your practice value (Lily Head)
  • Managing your personal finances (Chase de Vere)
  • Exit strategies (Chase de Vere)
  • Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace (Knights plc)

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, says: “Over many years, Denplan has built up a network of connections with professional firms who operate within the dental sector. The value they can bring to a dental practice, in terms of practical business advice, derives from their sharp focus on the dental industry.  After conducting some in depth research with our membership, we identified a clear need for more training in the areas of legal, tax, HR and employee wellbeing advice, and planning for retirement.  I’m delighted we are able to bring these expert partners together for a series of virtual events where I’m sure dentists will feel informed and engaged by the topics covered and will welcome the chance to ask practical questions on real and current practice and business challenges.”

Dentists can sign up and view the full programme and dates at DEN Webinars.  Further information can be obtained by emailing eventsandtraining@simplyhealth.co.uk.

[1] Dentists were asked to rate their interest in learning more about a range of topics proposed by partners and training and about their preferred learning method. Nov – Dec 2020; 215 responses from dentists. 

Simplyhealth Partners With McFly’s Harry Judd, Backing Campaign To Highlight The Role of Nature In Managing Mental Wellbeing

  • The musician and mental health champion has teamed up with Denplan’s parent company, Simplyhealth, and the Mental Health Foundation to embrace the mental wellbeing benefits of the natural world.
  • To inspire the nation to ‘Take a Breath’, they have created a free downloadable e-book, packed full of ideas and activities to connect with nature.
  • For each copy downloaded, Simplyhealth will donate £5 to the Mental Health Foundation.

Simplyhealth, Denplan’s parent company, has partnered with McFly musician, Harry Judd, and the Mental Health Foundation on a new campaign to shine a light on how connecting with the natural world can support our mental wellbeing.

The Take A Breath campaign – launched during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – will see Simplyhealth provide the nation with the tools and resources to better understand their mental wellbeing and embrace the positive benefits of nature on their psychological and emotional health.

Mental ill health on the rise

Unfortunately, mental ill health is common, with rates of anxiety and depression on the rise. This has been amplified by the ongoing pandemic, which has dramatically changed the way we work, live and socialise. For instance, a survey undertaken by Simplyhealth in 2020 revealed that 42% of UK adults felt their mental health had suffered since the outbreak of Covid-19[i].

However, there is an abundance of research which shows that the natural world plays a significant role in supporting mental health, from reducing stress and easing anxiety to increasing positivity and inspiring creativity.

New downloadable ‘Take a Breath’ e-book

To help people to look after their mental health, Simplyhealth, in collaboration with Harry Judd and the Mental Health Foundation, has created a new e-book titled ‘Take A Breath’, which is packed full of ideas, exercises and activities to inspire readers to connect with nature.

The e-book is free to download from the Simplyhealth website and includes personal anecdotes and advice from mental health champion Harry Judd, as well as insight from the Mental Health Foundation into the link between nature and wellbeing.

For each download of the e-book, Simplyhealth will donate to the Blue Prescribing Project, a joint project between the Mental Health Foundation and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. This initiative aims to tackle poor mental health through hands-on nature-based activities, and will see 300 people needing mental health intervention given access to wetlands nature.

Harry Judd, musician and Simplyhealth partner says“I’ve suffered with OCD and anxiety throughout my adult life, to the point that I was frightened to even leave my house. In those moments, I felt scared to share how I was feeling. Anxiety can be so isolating and sometimes makes you lose yourself. When I finally found the courage to reach out and ask for help, I felt so relieved – it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. 

“It’s easy to forget that our mental wellbeing is every bit as important as our physical health. If you break a bone, you seek medical help, yet many people are hesitant to ask for support with their mental wellbeing. I completely understand the courage it takes to speak up but reaching out for help was the best thing I ever did.

“Embracing fitness and the outdoors has also been a fundamental part of my personal mental health battle. Whether it is in the park, at the beach or in the garden, I believe that spending time in nature, embracing the fresh air and getting our bodies moving can benefit our mental wellbeing and redress the balance in our lives.

“I’m supporting Simplyhealth’s Take A Breath campaign as I want to help others who may be going through similar experiences with their mental health. As part of the e-book, I’ve created a nature-inspired activity checklist with the hope of giving people some everyday ideas for making the most of nature and the great outdoors.”

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan says: “Looking after our mental health and wellbeing isn’t always easy. However, there are actions we can take to help maintain balance, and a vast body of research supports the idea that spending quality time in and around nature reduces stress and increases feelings of positivity.

“Through the Take A Breath campaign, we hope to provide information, activities and tips that are fun and inspirational. Our aim is to encourage people to experiment with what works for them and their circumstances. It’s time to seize the power of nature and take a step – however small – to nurture and protect our mental wellbeing.”

Mark Rowland, CEO at the Mental Health Foundation says: “Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it is almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.

“At the Mental Health Foundation, we know that by working with organisations like Simplyhealth, we can reach more people to help them experience the benefits of our natural surroundings. With the challenges of the last year, there could not be a more important time to understand the links between nature and mental health.”

How Simplyhealth can help

The way people think and, more importantly, talk about mental health has changed for the better, but too many people still suffer in silence. For instance, 1 in 4 will be affected by a mental illness, yet almost two-thirds will never seek help[ii]

Through its healthcare plans, Simplyhealth offers access to 24/7 online GP, physio, counselling and advice, in addition to coverage for a variety of everyday health and wellbeing needs, from £7.50 per month. The free to use SimplyMe app is also a great tool for tracking mental and physical wellbeing. With daily mood and emotional health check ins, it shows users how to make simple changes to their normal routine that will support their overall wellbeing in the long term.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Simplyhealth will donate a further £5 to the Mental Health Foundation for every 20 minute walk that is recorded on the SimplyMe app.

To find out more about Denplan, visit www.denplan.co.uk or click here to download the Take A Breath e-book.

The SimplyMe app is available to download via the App Store or Google Play store.

The mental health of the dental profession should be protected

Denplan carried out a survey with member dentists to delve deeper into the issues affecting the dental profession after this turbulent year. Following a roundtable discussion in February, a white paper with key recommendations on how the Government should support our industry has now been published. Mental health and wellbeing is one of the main topics raised

Never has our profession been under more pressure. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed – and in many cases exacerbated – the issues facing mixed and private dental practices across the UK.

I’ve been working with various dental colleagues to explore the impact of COVID-19 on our profession. Our recent Denplan member survey raised a variety of issues facing the profession including concerns about financial stability, capacity to meet demand, and professional development and morale.

Poor mental health and wellbeing has long been an ongoing issue in the dental sector and we are very concerned that it has been deteriorating across the profession for a number of years. Mental health formed a large part of our most recent roundtable discussions that I chaired alongside industry leaders in February.  As a result of these discussions and research, Denplan has produced a white paper with 14 recommendations for the dental sector, which we urge policymakers to implement as soon as is practically possible.

Protecting our mental health by safeguarding our profession and ensuring the workforce is resilient, supported and engaged is a huge part of this work.

Mental health impact status quo

Our membership survey showed 35 per cent selected mental health and wellbeing challenges caused by managing a practice during COVID-19 as the challenge they are most concerned about in the next 12 months. Looking ahead, 42 per cent saw mental health and wellbeing as the most significant challenges facing the dental sector in the coming year (non-COVID related)[1].

This is something that needs to be addressed urgently, not only because stress and anxiety are harmful to dental professionals themselves, but also because such issues might impact negatively on patient outcomes.

Over the past few years the BDA has also carried out various qualitative research studies to understand more about mental health issues within the profession. In 2017, the association identified feelings of stress, experiences of burnout, and anxiety as the top three welfare issues facing dentists, which were caused by the top three following factors: their working conditions and environment, the fact that dentists normally work alone, and the pressure of meeting tough NHS and UDA targets.[2]

Our Denplan members report similar concerns and, indeed, the pressure on dental professionals is immense. During lockdown we supported Denplan members and their practice teams by giving them access to our GP and employee assistance programme providing vital support during the crisis that took a real toll on mental health.

Historically dental teams work very long hours, often seeing patients for early morning, late evening and weekend appointments. They also usually work in isolated conditions in single rooms, and so it can be a lonely profession. All of which contribute to the strain on mental health and wellbeing.

COVID-19 has worsened mental health

Over the last year practice teams have worked hard to meet patient care needs and carry out treatments under challenging circumstances. However, recent events and difficult pandemic working conditions have resulted in mental health strains and deteriorating morale across dental teams, exacerbating existing pressures on dentists and their dental teams.

As a result of the pandemic dental practices were forced to close for many months last year and are still operating at a reduced capacity, which has had significant financial consequences for dentists and caused them stress about how to meet the backlog. Compounding these worries are the additional restrictions and regulations that have been imposed on the industry as a result of the virus, which dental professionals now have to navigate amid uncertainty. Both have placed additional stress onto dentists and caused a higher rate of burnout.

A survey of dental practitioners carried out by Dental Protection last year found that, since the start of the pandemic, 45% of UK dentists feel their mental wellbeing has deteriorated, while almost half feel pessimistic about the future (48%).[3]

The research found that dental professionals said the main factor affecting their mental wellbeing was the health of their family and friends, followed by financial worries, and then adapting to new policies and guidance. Worryingly, a third (33%) of dentists also said they had experienced verbal or physical abuse from patients or patients’ relatives – largely due to not being able to offer an appointment soon enough.[4]

Since March last year, the BDA has also reported that they have experienced a surge in dentists accessing their Health Assured support service, with the majority citing anxiety, employment, work-related stress, low mood and work-related demands as their reasons for getting in touch.[5]

While many practices have provided good support and mentoring throughout the pandemic, there remain some, particularly in the cases of associates and dental nurses, who are feeling the pressures of the pandemic environment acutely.

Many of these team members were furloughed towards the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in a loss of income and increased anxiety about the future. For many of those who weren’t furloughed, the risk they faced of contracting COVID-19 from patients caused concern and anxiety.

Therefore, there’s an urgent need for policymakers to work with the sector to ensure that the whole dental workforce is resilient, supported and engaged.

The next generation

While the concerns that we have outlined above affect current dentists, Denplan’s white paper also sets out a further set of issues that are affecting the wellbeing of the next generation of dentists.

Dental students typically treat over 400,000 volunteer patients each year but, as a result of the pandemic, were unable to treat patients several months over the last year. Current students at dental schools have therefore lost a considerable amount of clinical time and the crucial opportunity to build their clinical experience of a range of more complex procedures.

Consequently, this is likely to impact on their understanding of and confidence in dentistry and could result in them feeling disillusioned and frustrated with the profession.

Mental health episodes on The Dental Podcast
In a fantastic two-parter, Catherine Rutland speaks with Dr Mahrukh Khwaja, who is the founder and CEO of Mind Ninja where they discuss a huge range of factors affecting the mental health and wellbeing of dental practitioners.
Part 1 – bit.ly/3tyaAkB
Part 2 – bit.ly/3sjeQTp
The Dental podcast be found on all major Podcast Apps, and on Smart Speakers.

 

 

 

 

 

Optimism does lie ahead

With all this in mind, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. Dentists are hard-working dedicated professionals, who want the best for their patients. They are embracing technology and they want to learn new skills and undertake training to continue to develop.

Furthermore, the vast majority of our member dentists (88%) we surveyed said that they do find clinical dentistry rewarding, with only 6% saying that they don’t.[6]

The onus should therefore be on policymakers to properly support dental professionals to do their jobs and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The Government must work with our sector to safeguard the profession and ensure the workforce is resilient, supported and engaged. This must include increasing the numbers of placements, boosting financial support for dental students, and strengthening training and professional development that is available to dentists throughout their career.

To read Denplan’s White Paper visit: https://www.denplan.co.uk/news/dentists-blog/denplan-white-paper.

References:

[1] Denplan member dentist survey, fieldwork carried out 1st-20th October 2020, 384 members surveyed.

[2] BDA, ‘The Mental Health and Well-being of UK Dentists: A Qualitative Study’, Aug 2017

[3] Dental Protection, ‘Covid-19: Half of UK dentists feel pessimistic about the future’, Nov 2020

[4] Ibid

[5] BDA, ‘The dental profession’s mental health crisis’, Sep 2020

[6] Denplan member dentist survey, fieldwork carried out 1st-20th October 2020, 384 members surveyed.

About the Author: Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director of Denplan, part of Simplyhealth.

Denplan publishes white paper on the future of dentistry

Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, the UK’s leading dental plan specialist, has today published a white paper on the future of dentistry.  This marks the culmination of months of in-depth research into the issues impacting private dentistry. The report includes insights from a survey Denplan conducted with its member dentists and wide-ranging discussions between leading oral health experts and dental professionals at Denplan’s virtual roundtable in February.

This report covers a wide range of issues that Denplan wants to highlight and put on the agenda of government, policy makers and the wider dental profession. Using Denplan’s extensive experience and clinical knowledge, as a leading voice of private dentistry in the UK, the white paper explores the five key areas of challenges and opportunities facing the private dental sector (including mixed, NHS and private practices) over the coming 12 months and beyond, including:

  • The understanding of private dentistry
  • The impact of COVID-19 on the sector
  • Oral health and its impact on general health
  • Innovation in the sector
  • The dental profession: workforce, mental health, professional development

The report also makes a series of 14 recommendations to government to help address these matters and improve the nation’s oral health.

Commenting on the white paper, Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth said: “Denplan’s white paper is an important and exciting opportunity to place private dentistry at the forefront of the debate about the future of healthcare and ensure the voice of private dental practices is heard.

“The Government needs to play a more active role in communicating to the public the importance of dental hygiene and routine check-ups in maintaining oral health, during the pandemic and beyond. Whilst there has been an increase in demand for urgent and emergency care, there has been a significant drop in patients attending routine dentistry due to stay at home restrictions. This will serve to grow the backlog of demand dentists need to meet in the next 12 months. 

“The right thing to do is to support the profession and for the Government to recognise the specific impact of Covid-19 on private dentistry and its potential impact on patient’s oral care.  We would like the Government to recognise the role played by private dentists in tackling the current backlog of cases.”

The publication of Denplan’s white paper comes at an interesting juncture for the dental profession and oral healthcare. The recent publication of the Government’s white paper Integration and Innovation, combined with the impact of Covid-19 on the health system, means that how healthcare is delivered and accessed is changing.

Largely absent from these discussions has been the role of dentistry. Based in local communities, with regular patient contact and possessing extensive clinical experience, dental practices have the potential to be an integral part of delivering a preventive model of healthcare to meet the needs of a changing population and society post-Covid. But this narrative is largely missing from current discussions in Westminster and Whitehall.

Denplan chairs policy roundtable on the future of dentistry

Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, held an inaugural virtual dental policy roundtable on the 23rd February to discuss the future of dentistry and the issues impacting the dental profession. The event was attended by a group of clinicians, academics and policymakers from different areas of the profession to share their knowledge and experience of dentistry in the current climate.

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth, chaired the event and was joined by Professor Avijit Banerjee of Kings College London, Sir Paul Beresford, Conservative MP for Mole Valley, Dr John Makin of the Dental Defence Union, Dr John Milne of the CQC, Dr Hannah Woolnough of Parkview Dental Centre, Dr Lauren Harrhy of Sparkle Dental Centre, Dr Ian Mills of General Dental Practitioners, and Dr Raj Rattan MBE, Dental Director at Dental Protection, Medical Protection Society.

With over 19 million dental appointments lost over the course of 2020[1], and Denplan’s dentist member survey revealing that nearly 70%[2] said that they felt politicians and decision makers in government didn’t sufficiently understand the dentistry sector, Denplan’s roundtable comes at an opportune moment.  

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has exposed – and in many cases exacerbated – the issues facing mixed and private dental practices across the UK. We all know from first-hand experience, that over the last 12 months practice teams have done tremendous work in meeting patient care needs and carrying out treatments under challenging circumstances.

“However, given the large patient backlogs and the spotlight currently on dentistry, combined with the recent publication of the Department of Health and Social Care’s White paper on the future of healthcare, now is the window of opportunity for members of the dental profession, to make their voices heard and influence the policy agenda for the dental sector.” 

The roundtable addressed a range of issues including the mental health and the wellbeing of dental teams as well as training the next generation of dentists and dental nurses. Also discussed were innovations such as how digital technology is shaping the delivery of dental care, and how oral health needs to find its rightful place in the sphere of general healthcare. Thoughts were also given as to how the dental profession will transition to a post-Covid world.

Spotlight on mental health for dental teams

The difficult pandemic working conditions over the past year, combined with fast paced changes in regulations for practices, have resulted in mental health strains and deteriorating morale across dental teams. Dental teams have also had to contend with taking on a certain level of risk of contracting the virus in their frontline roles.

While many practices have provided good support and mentoring throughout the pandemic, in the cases of associates and dental nurses, there are indications they are feeling the pressures of the pandemic environment acutely. This has been compounded by the fact that some dentists have suffered from a lack of support network in certain aspects.

Recruitment and retention of dental staff

Although the backlog in dental procedures has placed practices and dental teams under immense strain, it was stated that there is also an opportunity to reshape the way we deliver dentistry to meet this challenge and allow wider practice teams the opportunity to step up as they have done throughout the pandemic. Dental nurses, hygienists, and therapists perhaps have a larger role to play in the delivery of dental care as work to clear procedure backlogs, patient demand for cosmetic treatments increase and the focus of public health policy shifts towards a more preventive approach to oral health. 

The Roundtable also highlighted the pandemic has led to a large spike in interest as nursing as a profession and it was suggested the dental sector should be taking advantage of this opportunity to recruit young people.

Technology in clinical dentistry

The increasing usage of digital technology within dentistry formed a key part of the roundtable discussion. With Denplan’s member research showing that 1 in 4 practices are providing virtual consultations and 1 in 5 using digital impressions, and 1 in 7 employing computer aided design and milling for indirect replacements[3], digital tech in dentistry is following the same path as the wider healthcare sector with telemedicine, monitoring and diagnostics increasingly becoming the norm.

Members of the roundtable echoed the view of many in the profession that there is great potential in digital technology to help facilitate a more person-centred approach to dentistry that moves beyond the physical confines of the dental chair to enable better dispensation of oral health advice, monitoring of chronic conditions and post-surgery check-ups.

One note of caution was that technology should be viewed as an enabler, not a solution.

Lobbying for the future of the profession

As the difficulties and challenges continue for the dental sector, Denplan is optimistic about the power of the collective voice of the dental profession in raising these common themes and bringing them to the immediate attention of MP’s and policymakers. Denplan is set to play an integral part to lobby for the future of the profession and Denplan will be publishing its own white paper on the future of dentistry.

References:

1 British Dental Association https://www.bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/dentists-government-holds-the-key-to-restore-services-to-millions

2 Denplan member dentist survey, fieldwork carried out 1st-20th October 2020, 384 members surveyed.

3 Denplan member dentist survey, fieldwork carried out 1st-20th October 2020, 384 members surveyed.

‘Giving up wasn’t an option’ says wife and mother who battled mouth cancer

Sarah Davies (46) was set to celebrate her 40th birthday when her life took an unexpected turn that would change her life forever.

The wife and mother-of-one from Coventry began to feel some pain in the left side of her gum, just below one of her back teeth.  She thought it was just a mouth ulcer, but something was odd about it.

“At first, I didn’t think much of it and carried on with my everyday life,” Sarah says.

“It didn’t feel like a normal mouth ulcer though, sometimes it would send a feeling like an electric shock through the left side of my face.”

One month later, when the pain and inflammation did not go away, Sarah booked an appointment with her dentist.

The dentist treated the tooth above the inflammation with a filling.  When the problem continued, Sarah visited another dentist who suspected it was sinusitis.

It would be another nine months, after several dental visits and a last-ditch trip to A&E, that Sarah was finally given the diagnosis of mouth cancer.

Sarah says: “The doctor told me that they had results from my biopsy back and they had found malignant cells.  From what they could tell, the tumour was 20mm long and was squished up against the gum.”

Despite several knock-backs, Sarah’s persistence meant that she was able to catch her cancer in the early stages.

This gave Sarah the very best chance of beating the disease.

Sarah received both radiotherapy and chemotherapy and was given the all clear five years ago.

Despite surviving mouth cancer, Sarah continues to live with the after effects that impact her life to this day.

Sarah adds: “Following my treatment, I developed trismus, also called lockjaw, which has impacted my life dramatically.  I am only able to open my jaw a matter of millimetres so eating with a knife and fork is tricky and it takes me a long time to eat my meals.

“When going out with friends and family I usually order kids meals so that people aren’t waiting around for too long and if I want a drink, I have to do it through a straw.”

As is common with many mouth cancer survivors, Sarah’s taste buds and salivary glands were also affected, taking some of the joy out of eating and making swallowing more difficult.

Despite the setbacks Sarah has always kept a positive attitude.  She admits to still having her down days when she feels frustrated or depressed but her friends, family as well as support from Macmillan nurses keep her going.

Sarah adds: “Some friends have commented that I’m amazing for having the attitude that I have but I don’t think of myself that way.  When you’re dealt something, you’ve got to face it.  I’ve got an incredible family and friends who’ve supported me through it all.

“The way I look at it is that you’ve got two choices; do what has to be done or give up. Giving up isn’t an option.”

Sarah is sharing her journey to raise awareness during November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The charity campaign, run by the Oral Health Foundation, hopes to encourage more people to be mouthaware by being able to recognise the early signs and symptoms associated with mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer can appear as a long-lasting mouth ulcer that does not go away for three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or any lumps and swellings in the head or neck.  

During Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, have come together to raise awareness of the disease so that more people can beat it like Sarah.

Sarah admits that her knowledge of mouth cancer was poor before her diagnosis and hopes to inspire more people to learn about the disease, so they can spot it early.

Sarah says: “I didn’t really know about mouth cancer until I had it.  Then I started to look into it and realised just how many people it does impact. I will do anything to help make more people aware because the sooner mouth cancer is treated, the better your chances.

“If you think something isn’t right in your mouth then go and get it checked out.  It probably is nothing to worry about but it’s important you don’t ignore it.  I would also say that if you aren’t satisfied with the diagnosis you receive then go get a second opinion from another dentist or doctor.”

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, agrees and also notes how catching mouth cancer early can greatly increase your chances of survival and a better quality of life.

Dr Rutland says: “If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good.  Around 2,702 people in the United Kingdom lose their life to mouth cancer every year.  That’s seven people every day. It is widely recognised that many of these deaths could be prevented by early diagnosis. Early detection is by far the most important factor, as the stage at which mouth cancer is diagnosed has the most significant effect on overall survival as mouth (and throat) cancer can grow very quickly.

“Encouraging patients to attend regular dental examinations, carry out self-checks, and become familiar with the normal state of their mouth (and head and neck) is very important. To help raise patient awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, the Oral Health Foundation have developed a range of excellent patient education resources available on their website.”

Most mouth cancer appear on the tongue or tonsils, but it can also occur on the lips, gums, roof and floor of the mouth.

Last year, new mouth cancer cases in the UK reached a record high of 8,722 – an increase of 97% compared to 20 years ago.

The key to beating mouth cancer is spotting it early.  If you notice any of the symptoms associated with mouth cancer, visit a dentist or doctor immediately.

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to do a self-check for the disease, visit www.mouthcancer.org.